National-World

Manchester: No stranger to adversity

City has a huge student population

(CNN) - The city of Manchester, where at least 22 people were killed in a suspected terrorist attack at a music concert Monday night, is no stranger to tragedy.

In 1996, less than a mile from the Manchester Arena, the site of Monday night's explosion, the IRA detonated a powerful truck-bomb -- their largest ever on the British mainland -- injuring hundreds and ripping apart the city center, causing millions of dollars in damage.

Then, like now, the city was united in its response, as the community rallied around those affected.

Immediately after Monday night's incident, with train services temporarily halted, and traffic in the city at a standstill, the hashtag #RoomForManchester began trending on Twitter, as hundreds of local people took to the social media platform with offers of spare beds and car rides to those left stranded.

Such big-heartedness is typical of Manchester, a city characterized within the UK by its strong sense of local spirit and generosity: Mancunians are proud of their city and local bluster has it that Manchester is the "greatest city in the world."

Huge student population

Though among Britain's largest and most established cities -- often vying with Birmingham for the title of the UK's second city after the capital London -- Manchester is also a young city, home to the UK's largest university and one of Europe's biggest student populations. It has around 100,000 college students, many from overseas, spread across the city's three main universities.

Monday's Ariana Grande concert at the 21,000 capacity Manchester Arena, in the heart of the lively downtown area, was close to both the city's 13th century cathedral and the popular Printworks entertainment hub, which would likely have been packed with young people and college students.

The downtown area itself, a mix of grand Victorian statement architecture and recently regenerated and contemporary buildings, is a popular nightlife destination, that draws in thousands from across the Greater Manchester area each evening.

The city is still famed for its music scene, which thrived in the 1980s and 1990s with groups like Joy Division, the Smiths, New Order and Oasis. It's also home to Manchester United and Manchester City -- premier league football clubs that have massive followings at home and overseas.

Hotel becomes refuge

Early witness footage shows frightened concert goers fleeing from the arena towards Victoria Station, a major transport hub.

Several blocks away, on the city's main High Street, is the Holiday Inn Express, where according to early reports online, as many as 50 unaccompanied children -- who became separated from their parents during the ensuing commotion -- are being cared for by staff and locals.

The city's police and emergency services appear to have been quick to respond, having practiced for such an event in May 2016, when authorities staged one of Britain's largest ever counter terrorism training exercises in the Trafford area of the city.

Previously, in 2015, a US federal jury found Manchester resident Abid Naseer guilty of plotting with al Qaeda to bomb the Arndale shopping center in the city's downtown area. The Manchester plot was allegedly part of a three-pronged plan in 2009, that included attacks on the New York City subway system and on a newsroom in Copenhagen. None were carried out.

Police have since moved to step up patrols in an effort to reassure the public following terror attacks in Paris and Brussels. Police tactics include creating a "ring of steel" following major incidents, with units carrying firearms, something which is rarely seen in the UK.

Early images of the Manchester Arena incident showed lines of ambulances outside the arena and armed police units helping to secure the area, with warnings being distributed to "stay away" from the arena.


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